Specific classifiers versus unspecific bare nouns

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-31
Journal / PublicationLingua
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


Based on rare language data from a Chinese minority language, we argue for a particular theory of specific and unspecific reference. We understand specific versus unspecific reference as the properties of picking out one versus not-one (set of) referents in the discourse context. The analysis is reminiscent of Schwartzschild (2002)’s singleton theory and an alternative to the Choice Function approach. We further argue that unspecific reference conversationally implicates other reference types such as ‘universal’, ‘generic’ or ‘distributive’ reference. The Hmu language (Miao-Yao: China) is cross-linguistically rare in encoding the contrast of specific versus unspecific reference by a minimal pair, by bare classifiers and bare nouns.

Research Area(s)

  • Anti-unique, Distributive, Generic, Hmu, Miao, Specific, Universal, Unspecific